One hundred and forty-one nights after his positive coronavirus test triggered the suspension of the NBA season, Utah Jazz Center Rudy Robert scored the first points of the championship restart, taking a step at the end of former teammate Derrick Favoris at the inauguration of the game. Thursday night against the New Orleans Pelicans at Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
More importantly, Robert also scored the end points of the game, hitting a pair of free throws with a remaining 6.9 seconds.
“I’m just grateful,” Robert told ESPN in a telephone interview after the 106-104 jazz victory at HP Walt Disney World. “I am just grateful that I can do what I love to do. After all that I personally, and all that the world is going through right now, being able to continue to inspire millions of children around the world and continue to spread positivity is just a blessing.
It was also a good way to end the victory, as shooter Donovan Mitchell broke the defense with a dribble penetration and caused Robert to lead the free throws. Favoris’ foul prevented Robert from finishing the most important dive, but the play was still proof that the jazz stars, whose breakup had dominated the news coverage of the franchise for months, could continue to have a productive working partnership.
“Donovan was trying to make the right game and he did,” said Robert, who had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in the win, which was sealed when the Pelicans ahead Brandon Ingram missed a 3-pointer on the buzzer. “A lot of people probably won’t be able to say the things they want to say to try to divide our team. Like I said, life works in mysterious ways.”
The All-Stars jazz couple did not speak during the first month of the hiatus because Mitchell, who tested positive for COVID-19 hours after Gobert, was upset by the 7-foot cavalier’s attitude toward the coronavirus pandemic before Gobert realized he was infected.
However, they both acknowledged that there had been friction between them before the pandemic, mainly about how often Mitchell switched to Robert and the big man’s tendency to complain about him.
“We went on and talked about using all this experience to improve. I think these two guys did it,” said jazz coach Quinn Snyder.
After several productive private conversations, each taking responsibility, Robert and Mitchell have publicly expressed confidence in recent weeks that they can continue to make money together and are willing to shift the focus back to the team as a whole. They reiterated that position as a result of working together on the critical game in Thursday’s victory.
“That also doesn’t stop you from talking about it, to be honest with you,” said Mitchell, who had two of his five assists on Robert’s forehead in the third quarter when jazz was picking up from a 16-point deficit. “After all, we are basketball players. We go out there and do the right game. He did a hell of a job. I’m trying to find my way and find guys who open up. For me, at the end of the game, it’s for the right reading. I told you thousands of times that I’m trying to be a better passerby, a better playmaker in general.Yes I can do that in these situations just shows the steps I’ve made.
“I just trust him and he trusts me. That’s really it. … He had the first two points and for that [play] to finish it, he has to seal everything as far as talking about all these extra things. “
Mitchell scored eight of his 20 points in the last five minutes, once beating the pelicans during a crisis as jazz put the finishing touches on their return. This coincided with Utah’s biggest comeback of the season, as it also overtook the Portland Trail Blazers by 16 in a win on Feb. 7, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Mitchell had Jazz’s previous eight points when he tied in the middle of the lane with a tied result after beating New Orleans keeper Drew Holiday with a dribble from behind, forcing Favoris to step in to help and make a nice pass to Robert.
“To make the game he was late and drop the ball to Rudy, then Rudy to make the two free throws, which shows a lot of confidence in your teammate,” Snyder said. “Maybe I’ll change my mind and say it’s poetic, but I don’t want to exaggerate too much. These two boys have done this hundreds and hundreds of times in the last one [three] years, the time they played together. It’s great to see them connect on the court. “
Robert still had to sink the crowded free throws, which was a problem for him. He entered the game 1 on 8 with free throws in the last 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or extraordinary this season, according to a study by ESPN Stats & Info, the worst video (12.5%) of any player with at least five attempts in such situations .
But Robert made both free throws with the line play, saying he was just focusing on how he held the ball and his pursuit, not the magnitude of the moment.
After the game ended, the last interaction between the players on the floor was for Mitchell to switch to replace a high five with Robert before the interview for TNT’s sideline in the center.
“Every team has its ups and downs,” said Robert. “The most important thing is the way you react. We need a bigger person to take the high path in life. We are both doing this right now. We will both continue to try to improve each other. This is ours. the needs of the team and the needs of our community. “